Known as Mrs. Hart by many, Renee Hart has a big heart for children and her forever hometown of Williamsfield.

This big heart prompted her to apply for a grant from the Rapid Response Fund at Galesburg Community Foundation to help increase the number of people receiving emergency food in her hometown through their Blessings in a Backpack program.

Renee said, “We were ordering more food to feed more people and our financial resources were quickly dwindling as we operate on donations. I was getting very worried. Thankfully another member of our community who had worked with the Community Foundation in the past told me to give them a call. I shared with Tiffany Springer (director of grants and programs at the Foundation) about our needs and she asked me to fill out an application for the Rapid Response Fund.”

As an educator at the neighboring school district, ROWVA, and having resided in Williamsfield her entire life, Renee is in-tune with the needs of local families. Additionally, she is involved at the Williamsfield United Methodist Church as youth director of children’s ministries.

With these experiences, four years ago Renee was introduced to the nationwide program, Blessings in a Backpack when it was first introduced at ROWVA. With her strong desire to help local children and her involvement in the Williamsfield community, she knew she had to bring the program even closer to home.

“Thankfully, four years ago I learned about the Blessings in a Backpack program because it was started at ROWVA. A group of us at the church decided to start our own program for Williamsfield school children. With the onset of COVID-19 and this program in place we knew we had to help more community members beyond our students.”

What originally was Blessings Bags for 20 school children quickly jumped to serving 52 families or 125 people.

“We knew we would need to serve more people in our community as we have many elderly residents who cannot go out at this time. We are now serving people of all ages and we range in families from 1 member to 10. We’re able to make this happen thanks to a great collaboration with the Williamsfield School District and Ladds Grocery Store in Williamsfield,” she said.

To ensure the Blessings Bags are prepared, Jerry Ladd of Ladds Grocery Store in Williamsfield, works with the Blessings volunteers to prepare their food order and delivers it to the church, which is no small task as the delivery consists of 52 gallons of milk, fresh fruits, ingredients for grilled cheese or spaghetti type meals, cereal and more. The Williamsfield School District delivers the food.

Renee said, “We try to ensure that the food we provide extends beyond two days right now as we want to make sure the kids and families have enough and never too little. My husband was laid off at one time. I remember how that felt. I don’t ever want any kiddo to go without food. We’re thankful for the grant from the Rapid Response Fund because now we don’t have to worry as much about how we will continue purchasing the needed food.”

For more information about the Rapid Response Fund at Galesburg Community Foundation, or to give to the fund to ensure programs such as this can continue serving residents of Knox and Warren Counties visit www.YourGCF.org/RapidResponse.

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Haley Sloss

Charitable Giving Coordinator

Short Bio

Haley provides support to enhance the function and success of the Charitable Giving and Affiliate Teams. She ensures donors receive a personal approach to philanthropy through outstanding customer service by supporting charitable giving for donors and fund holders across the state.